Philosophy/ Living In The Face Of Death term paper 18707

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Living in the Face of Death

Life was good...

Life was good until...

Life was good until death.

Death was bad...

Death was bad until...

Death was bad until life.


She sat there mourning the death of her husband. He had lain there dying from cancer for a period of time to painful to remember. Now he was gone—the space left behind a haunting reminder of what had once been. Oh soul, which lives in the shadow of death, raise your head and look over the time around you. Those who die leave behind a simple trail, which leads to communion with them once again. While alive, each of us touches many lives and places. Those very impressions are what make us immortal. While a human's body may lay motionless and bound by earth, its spirit is free to exist and roam through the people and places it had touched before freedom. The living must now choose how to relate to such an existence--some prefer to ignore or hide from such manifestations, some embrace and cherish the gentle strokes of memory. The dead move on in the memory of the living—we are not abandoned but abandon. Shall burial be only of body and not of recollection? Should it be not good-bye, but good memories? Based on the emotions delivered by the past, the answer should haunt it's way in the wheel of reason we all spin during life while preparing for death.

Immortality—a prize that has taunted the human spirit throughout the pages of history—is closer than we think. Many different attempts have been made in the area of perpetual preservation of life, but there has been one simple thing in particular, which has assisted me in my personal search through the implications of death--a skull. John Donne once said, "Need I look upon a death's head in a ring, that have one in my face?" I too had marveled at the ease with which a skull could bring about so many different visions of death. Then, one day, while trying to comprehend the concept of eternal life, I found a door to immortality in the very place that called for the complete absence of life--a Jordanian Skull. The skull was taken from the body and resurfaced with plaster. The plaster was then contoured to resemble the face of the deceased. Shells were then placed in the sockets and the visage was then painted or dyed to resemble natural skin tone. Once completed, the skull was then placed on the floor of the house--right above the spot where the body was buried. After learning all this about the skull, I had to ask the question, "Why?" It just doesn't make any sense to take someone's head and plaster it all up just to be placed above the ground--separated from it's body. Then the answer slowly came to me..."The head's not dead!" Actually, the head isn't really alive, it's just sitting there. But the Neo-lithic people must have had a reason for doing this strange thing right? Well they did.

This is where the skull has finally shown me it's true face. The key to immortality is not one of preserving yourself physically, it is one of preparing yourself to be remembered. The purpose of preparing the skull after death was simple--it prepared a place for the soul or spirit of the person to go. And the spirit really did live within the little walls of a plastered skull. The person who died may have physically passed away, but the "spirit" of the person lived mainly on within the skull. The dead go on in the memory of the living—the only hope of spitting in death's eye.

My personal feelings about those who die is not one of remorse or sorrow, but one of, "I'm glad I knew them, they are at peace and I am now the little taxi they'll ride around in." The Jordanian Skull was not so much a spirit trap for the person's soul, it was more a focusing tool used by those around him/her/it to more readily keep the memory alive and kicking. Today, we no longer plaster up people's skulls and keep them on the mantle. Today, we feel it is better to forget and move on—I think not. I strongly feel that we do injustice to those we love by pushing their memory from our minds—burying recollection while stuffing their body six feet under. A skull, one of the last things associated with living, brought me an insight which helped shape my philosophy on death. We do not die completely, we simply start living through the things and people we touched. Like the immortal soul of the Jordanian Skull, I too wish to live in the face of death.

Nabih Saliba

Word Count: 798


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